Monday, 19 February 2018

Cleaning

I spent yesterday with my quilting group, most of the ladies decorated tins and flowerpots with decoupage and damned fine they looked too.  Haunted by our individual guilts I and a friend used the uninterrupted time to work on our respective quilts and progress was made - hooray.
Jean-Luc was due to meet up with friends for his weekly Sunday evening of music and beer.  This meant our paths would barely cross all day.
 
The result of all this social activity was that I returned home to a note pinned on the kitchen door with 'Wet Floor' and a 27 point list of Jean-Luc's  mammoth kitchen cleaning spree.
 
Today I retaliated with a purge on the bathroom.
We are talking tea tree oil and bicarb cream cleaner, vinegar sprays and Dettol.
 
 
War has been declared in the 2018 Spring Cleaning Olympics!
 
Let the frolics begin.
 
 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

New Years Resolutions

I don't do New Year Resolutions but I have realised that about January each year I have an unconscious personal ritual I carry out.
 
 
Every year I reread Rhonda Hetzels' book Down to Earth.
It's a guide to simple living.  It's not preachy, it doesn't assume everyone can or wants to live the same life; but what it does do is have some solid advice broken down into sections that you can use and adapt to help live a simpler life.
 
I guess by rereading it, I am reconnecting with the principles that I want to be part of my life. 
Although I live in a rural area, we will never have a small holding, orchard and probably no chickens or bees (the garden is just too small).  I can however budget, grow as many veggies as I can fit in,  and make as much as I can. 
 
 
Jean-Luc cooks wonderful meals from scratch and he makes enough meals to freeze for future meals, we buy in bulk when things are cheap and have a store cupboard and freezer to store it.  I preserve as much of our excess veggies as I can - (go courgettes and tomatoes!) and haunt hedgerows and supermarket isles for cheap fruit and herbs for preserving.  
 
 
I make soap and laundry liquid, we haven't bought soap for over seven years and we only use shop bought laundry pods once every two months for white linens.  I'm learning to make my own clothes and try to buy good quality that will last when I do buy clothes - I'm lucky enough to have a sister who could be in the GB Olympic knitting team and who makes me gorgeous jumpers and dresses.



We are not perfect; on the non-frugal side Jean-Luc loves holidays in hot climes, loves his car and, as an IT specialist, loves high quality techy stuff.
 I love good wine, good coffee and good cheese.  I have a Doc Marten boot fetish and love books.  And of course I have a deep need to stash yarn and material.
 
Both Jean-Luc and I agree on the basics though - pay your bills first, save before you spend and wait until you have the money before you buy luxuries.
Why all this info - well it's just my way of saying very few of us are going to be able to live the perfect sustainable lifestyle with a small holding and eco house and we all have different ideas about what are necessities and what are luxuries; about what makes life bearable and what we want rather than need in our lives. 
The important thing is if you want to live simply, start with things you can change in your present lifestyle, develop a plan you and your family feel comfortable with and implement that plan; you can always change it later.  Life can change and unexpected things happen so be flexible and have some wiggle room but figure out what it is you can and want to change and do it.
Living simply can be challenging but rewarding, but if something isn't working for you don't feel pressured into continuing with it; some things that seemed a good idea prove to be just the opposite; so either try tweaking it to suit you or try something else completely.
 But if you fancy trying living simply - good luck and enjoy it.
 
 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Pfeh!

Jean-Luc and I have now recovered from the village lurgy that we have been suffering from for over a month. Until last week we'd barely been out except for shopping trips; notable exceptions where a trip to a local antiques warehouse, an evening out at the pub (we were in bed by 9.30) and today, when we went for a short walk at a local nature reserve.  We ended up with Jean-Luc napping on the sofa and me snuggled up in a shawl nursing a cup of mint tea - both knackered by a 45 minute walk. Ridiculous. 
Opinion around the village is that this bug hangs around for at least 4 weeks and wends its way through your system in series of ups and downs - you think it's gone, you do some light physical activity and woomp! back down you go into aching limbs and sore throat territory.
The bells have been rung, crosses painted on doors and the parish council are mustering volunteers to stand at the entrances to the village intoning 'Unclean!' in sepulchral tones.
 
In an effort not to be drawn into the horrors of daytime TV, I spent the time crocheting socks. 


 
Snuggly and cheerful rainbow socks.
 
Considering the weather - beautifully warm.

I've also finally got to grips with quilting this quilt.

 
I sort of like this pastel quilt; it's not in my usual colour range and is made from a load of fat quarters I had bought on a whim.  It's been hanging around for a while now as a UFO and I've finally bitten the bullet and started finishing it - with help of course!

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Hidden Gems

I was thinking about jobs the other day. At present I am passing time as a part-time receptionist at one of the village doctors but am not convinced that it is 'really me'; so in an attempt to figure out what I might want to do with this phase of my life I started to think about my old jobs and what I'd most enjoyed. 
To my surprise, the one thing that stood out, enjoyment wise, was working as a Countryside Officer for Cambridgeshire County Council. It was a great job, I got to drive around the county, dispensing grants and words of wisdom about habitat management, conservation and meeting lots of really nice people, their dogs and often sampling delicious cake... more of that later.
 
The thing that really stood out for me though was one tiny little linear site that I was responsible for.  It was a gorgeous little gem of mesotrophic grassland and scalloped woodland edge that had formed part of an old railway line and was full of little surprises, such as perforated St. John's Wort. 
Part of my job was to keep an eye on the site which I used as an excuse to pop into the site whenever my schedule and weather permitted to eat my packed lunch.
This was because nestled in this gem was an even more delightful treasure.
Araneus quadratus.
 
 
This amazingly beautiful spider is identified by the four white spots on its body; it comes in an amazing variety of colours from leaf green to brick red with black and white zebra striped legs.
They spin webs and then lurk under tall grasses, soft rushes or umbillifers awaiting their lunch.
 
They confirmed a life long love of spiders!
 
As to the cake, many of the farms and community groups I and my colleagues visited often used to ply us with coffee and delicious homemade cakes - so much so that it became an on going joke that we should include cake quality as part of  project appraisals.  Thank goodness my journey to work was a 45 minute walk each way - otherwise I'd have been bursting out of my trousers within a few weeks.


Saturday, 6 January 2018

Domestic comforts

It's been cold, wet, windy, stormy and the village is full of colds, coughs and general winter bleurgghness to which Jean-Luc and I have succumbed.
 It was a hard autumn with Jean-Luc's father sadly dying after a long hospital stay and frankly neither of us have been at our best either physically or mentally.
So this winter we closed the doors, pulled the curtains, snuggled down and embraced some home comforts.
Friends were met and good company enjoyed.

My sister, brother in law and niece visited en route to spend Christmas in Scotland.
It was lovely to see them however briefly.
I can't believe how much she's grown.

 Blankets have been finished.

 Books bought.

New challenges embraced.
 
 Fires and passive solar heating enjoyed.


 Homemade sashimi devoured.

Art appreciated.
A beautiful oil painting by a local artist - Paddy Campbell
Jean-Luc gave me this picture for Christmas, we'd seen it at a local open art exhibition.  I'd spent weeks raving about it to friends, one of whom sat next to me at the pub and listened to me witter on, entered into a deep discussion on art and artists and the beauty of the palette work in this painting; all the while not giving away one iota that she knew Jean-Luc had purchased the painting.  She really lived up to her nickname of Bletchley!

White Wool Mystery Mission

It's out there now.  I've been part of a secret mission.
This winter I met up with my fellow agents and we planned and plotted, we reconnoitred and mapped, sought out allies and got our supplies and weapons of choice prepared.
 
And then we put our plan into action....
 
Yes - we yarnbombed our local church to celebrate its reopening after major repair works.
 
It was a real secret project; although we postered the village asking for wool and volunteers to knit and crochet in white wool,  the volunteers weren't told what they were working for until a month before the event and were then sworn to secrecy.
 
The parish council and vicar knew we were up to something as we had to have their permission, but in a huge act of generosity and trust they didn't ask too many questions; indeed the vicar didn't know what we were planning until it was unveiled just before the celebrations to reopen the church.  He was surprised, charmed and very pleased at what we'd done.
 
I had a huge amount of joy playing with new patterns including...
 
 this spider..
 
...this angel - St. Michael's and All Angels....

 ... this poppy wreath

I absolutely loved being part of this project.  I was overwhelmed by the talent of the ladies I worked with and the huge amount of community spirit.  Most of us who were involved in both the steering group and the larger group aren't churchgoers but we recognise and appreciate the importance of all our community assets and organisations.
 
The village really enjoyed our work too; I don't think we had one negative comment and although we had planned to take it down after the village Christmas fair, due to popular demand we left it up until after Christmas.
 
Three very sneaky women finally blowing their cover.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Garden Glories

It's that time of year when warm and (finally) wet weather sends the garden into an orgy of growing and flowering.  By all rights my flower border should be a developing riot of, often clashing, colours.
But not this year. Oh no, this year my flower border seems to be entirely populated by a pink cranesbill; while my attention was caught up with the armies of lysimachia and fox and cubs, the cranesbill has sent out secret guerrilla units to set up remote outposts across the whole bloody border.  I now have pink followed by pink, followed by another sort of pink, followed by even more pink.


 I don't mind some pink plants as pink cranesbills in particular are quite lovely, but not a whole border and especially when they've ousted the lovely soft velvety leaved lychnis and my stately verbena bonariensis but are in danger of overwhelming my much loved woodland cranesbill, bequeathed to me by an ecology work colleague when she moved south and couldn't take them with her.
It's time for some drastic action and nine plants have been marked for removal, I will leave some behind as I like the way they give a sense of flow along the border but I have a long and serious chat with them and will be adding them to my list for surveillance and extreme vetting.

Thankfully not all is tales of woe.

The Nu's fernery and woodland border is growing nicely, providing secure camouflage for a whole host of neighbourhood cats, much to her disgust.
 Strangely the edible end of the garden seems to be doing even better - although slugs may eat my words and crops for me later.

Two years on and the fruit beds are in full production, with a new piece of ironmongery to try and deter the wood pigeons from scrumping the berries.  Honestly if they could speak they'd sound like Cockney urchins as they lurk around the bushes.

 My thyme has the most beautiful star like flowers and looks like a miniature constellation and the bees are loving it.

 The exotics in the greenhouse have survived and the Oca (at the back) are growing well, while the physalis or Cape Gooseberries have germinated so well I am now the proud owner of 33 physalis plants.
Is that too many I ask myself?
Probably yes as they will soon need to be transplanted into much larger pots and I am already running out of room in the greenhouse.
I may be forced to generously donate some to the village open garden plant stall.....maybe they'll want some pink cranesbills; I can vouch for the fact they are excellent for ground cover.......😈

The Jerusalem artichokes are also doing well after a slow start thanks to our cold spring and only one has not grown; probably due to being sat upon by some self seeded borage seedlings.

And lastly, just look at these gorgeous, smile inducing poppies, they are just shouting 'Happy'.